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Danielle Bean

Danielle Bean
Danielle Bean, a mother of eight, is Editorial Director of Faith & Family. She is author of My Cup of Tea, Mom to Mom, Day to Day, and most recently Small Steps for Catholic Moms. Though she once struggled to separate her life and her work, the two …
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JustinTest

JustinTest

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Rachel Balducci

Rachel Balducci
Rachel Balducci is married to Paul and they are the parents of five lively boys and one precious baby girl. She is the author of How Do You Tuck In A Superhero?, and is a newspaper columnist for the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia. For the past four years, she has …
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Lisa Hendey

Lisa Hendey
Lisa Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com, a Catholic web site focusing on the Catholic faith, Catholic parenting and family life, and Catholic cultural topics. Most recently she has authored The Handbook for Catholic Moms. Lisa is also employed as webmaster for her parish web sites. …
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Arwen Mosher

Arwen Mosher
Arwen Mosher lives in southeastern Michigan with her husband Bryan and their 4-year-old daughter, 2-year-old son, and twin boys born May 2011. She has a bachelor's degree in theology. She dreads laundry, craves sleep, loves to read novels and do logic puzzles, and can't live without tea. Her personal blog site …
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Rebecca Teti

Rebecca Teti
Rebecca Teti is married to Dennis and has four children (3 boys, 1 girl) who -- like yours no doubt -- are pious and kind, gorgeous, and can spin flax into gold. A Washington, DC, native, she converted to Catholicism while an undergrad at the U. Dallas, where she double-majored in …
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Robyn Lee

Robyn Lee
Robyn Lee is a senior writer for Faith & Family magazine. She is a 30-something, single lady, living in Connecticut with her two cousins in a small bungalow-style kit house built by her great uncle in the 1950s. She also conveniently lives next door to her sister, brother-in-law and six kids …
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Hallie Lord

Hallie Lord
Hallie Lord married her dashing husband, Dan, in the fall of 2001 (the same year, coincidentally, that she joyfully converted to the Catholic faith). They now happily reside in the deep South with their two energetic boys and two very sassy girls. In her *ample* spare time, Hallie enjoys cheap wine, …
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DariaSockey

DariaSockey
Daria Sockey is a freelance writer and veteran of the large family/homeschooling scene. She recently returned home from a three-year experiment in full time outside employment. (Hallelujah!) Daria authored several of the original Faith&Life; Catechetical Series student texts (Ignatius Press), and is currently a Senior Writer for Faith&Family; magazine. A latecomer …
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Lynn Wehner

Lynn Wehner
As a wife and mother, writer and speaker, Lynn Wehner challenges others to see the blessings that flow when we struggle to say "Yes" to God’s call. Control freak extraordinaire, she is adept at informing God of her brilliant plans and then wondering why the heck they never turn out that …
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When Angels Rush In

Praying hard and trusting harder ... Part 2

Forgive me if I gush, but our dreams came true last week. Our prayers were answered. My husband, out of work for seven agonizing months, has found a job.

Make that five jobs. Five fabulous, viable work opportunities. Five. 

If you’d predicted the future two weeks ago, I might have laughed in your face, but I wouldn’t have been smiling. Two weeks ago was the worst of times—the worst we have experienced in six years of marriage, and the worst I have known in my 32 years.

Extended unemployment had decimated our savings, and over time, our hope and confidence too.

Day after day, month after month, we had pounded the proverbial pavement — blitzing my husband’s staggering real estate industry with resumes, phone calls, and meetings. No one seemed to care.

Night after night, through Masses and Holy Hours and broken, choking prayers,  we had pounded on Heaven’s door — imploring God not just for a job, but for enough patience, courage, humility and love to endure whatever the heck sort of trial this was. He didn’t seem to hear.

When my mother died suddenly from a stroke midway through the experience, I felt the last shreds of my faith begin to disintegrate completely. In their place grew a dull, dark anger. And then the beginnings of something worse: despair.

Where was God in all of this? I wondered. Couldn’t He hear us, begging for help? Couldn’t He see us, desperately treading water and slowly, slowly, drowning? My intellect said that God was still near—that we were being called to carry our cross, do our best and simply trust Him. My will chose to do so, and stubbornly, too.  But my heart ... my heart just felt betrayed.

All my life, I have had the gift of faith. Since childhood, I have turned to God as easily in times of great sorrow as I have in joy, never doubting His goodness or care. Prayer has often seemed as effortless as breathing. Yet now, for the first time, God seemed to be absent, and His silence, mocking. Had my husband slapped my face and left the house without a word, I couldn’t have felt more devastated or bewildered. Prayer itself seemed like a joke.

That’s when I was invited to pray more.

“You guys need to say a novena,” urged a well-meaning relative. “Pray a novena for a job. And for faith.” 

She sent me a copy of a novena for work. The n-word: inwardly, I shuddered.

Maybe it’s my Protestant upbringing, or just my cynical nature, but I’ve always been squeamish about novenas. I know they’re a sanctioned and time-honored tradition of the Church, these nine-day periods of prayer for particular graces or intentions. I know they express our dependence on God, and our childlike trust that He yearns to pour out His blessings on all those who turn to Him in need. I know that traditionally, novenas have proven to be extraordinarily efficacious, and that they come highly recommended by numerous saints.

All too often, however, I have seen them used superstitiously as spiritual chain letters or incantations to God the Great Vending Machine, as if the words and number of the prayers themselves held some kind of magical power.  Whenever I hear someone raving about a specific novena that “really works,” I cringe a little, for it sounds as if they have discovered a secret formula for getting God to do their will.

“Thanks,” I told my relative, “but I think we’ll just keep using our own words.”

Two days later, a friend emailed me with the same advice — and the same novena. “I hope this can help Andres,” she wrote. “We are praying.”

“What’s the point of praying this novena for work?” I asked my husband that night. “How is this different or better than our other prayers? What if nothing happens, and that makes me doubt God more? Or what if we actually do get a job afterwards and I have to tell my friends they were right?”

My husband burst out laughing. “Maybe we should just try praying it,” he said. “Besides,” he added, “it might just be good for your pride.”

The next day, we started the novena.

There was relief in its very repetition, in the sheer predictability of this new nightly routine. On days when I felt too numb or empty to form “my own words,” the novena offered me a way to keep praying, a way to cling to God in the dark.  I was reminded of my godmother, whose only child had been killed in a car crash at 18. For years after the accident, her only prayer had been the Apostles Creed, repeated over and over and over—- “I believe, I believe, I believe.” 

Even though I couldn’t bring myself to believe in the novena we were saying, I felt healed and comforted by the faith-filled words.

But the next week, miracles started happening.

On Monday, I was offered a job—an unexpected, part-time, close-to-home job, with babysitting. On Tuesday, my husband got an offer himself. Then another. And another. By Friday, we had a total of six job opportunities between us.

“We’d better stop praying!” I joked to Andres, “This is getting crazy.”

But our hearts were singing. Tomorrow, my husband starts work for the first time in more than half a year.

Meanwhile, I still don’t know what to make of our novena experience, but I’ve realized that gratitude doesn’t require a labored analysis. Like a child, I can simply leap with joy and thanksgiving in the presence of so many blessings.  Like Mary’s spontaneous Magnificat, I can praise God’s goodness and faithfulness with a heart that overflows.

What I do know is this: God heard—and hears—our prayers: even the angry ones, the anxious ones, the tearful ones, and the ones recited purely by rote. He stoops to receive them all, and all of them He answers, in His own mysterious time and way. Our Father in Heaven will never abandon us, nor leave us in despair, and though the wait may sometimes seem unbearably long, He will never betray our hope in Him.

Now, even as I rejoice, I pray for those who are still walking in the doubt and insecurity we came to know so well this year. I pray for those burdened by grief and unemployment, as so many prayed for us, and I offer with these prayers a poem by Ann Weems that I found on a scrap of paper among my mother’s things, shortly after her funeral:

Into this silent night
as we make our weary way
we know not where,
just when the night becomes its darkest
and we cannot see our path,
just then
is when angels rush in,
their hands full of stars

—Marion Fernandez-Cueto writes from Houston, TX.  She was baptized into the Catholic Church in 2000.

Praying Hard, Trusting Harder Part 1


Comments

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Congratulations on your and your husband’s new jobs!  Thanks for sharing such a beautiful story!

 

Congratulations on your husband’s new jobs!  You’ve been through an awful lot recently, and I hope the tide is turning for you.

 

Congratulations to you both.  What a beautiful and inspiring story.
God is good.

 

Oh, that’s wonderful!  It’s your Easter!!!  (referencing a comment in the earlier post that has stuck with me ever since)  Thank you for sharing the news of your blessings with us!

 

Oh my! Our Lord is so good!  Thank you for sharing your story and the novena.

 

God is good. All the time.
Congratulations to you and Andres. May this be the start of a wonderful new chapter.

 

Thank you all so much!!

 

Congratulations, Marion!  My husband was also out of work for 7 months last year; what a scary time.  I pray this new opportunity works well for your family and helps to bring the peace that you are all longing for.

 

Congrats on your husbands job. That must be such a relief. When I hear things like this it makes my heart hopeful. Im glad God has made provisions for you.

I grew up Protestant too. I had a pretty crappy childhood so I never had faith like yours. Theres something that really messes with your faith when that sort of stuff happens. I do pray the rosary everyday now asking for the blessings to be applied to my children. But, I dont use prayer to actually get anything physical. Its hard for me to beleive that God is going to give me anything I actually want physically….like making my kids normal. I prayed and cried so much that I didnt even use kleenexs just towels. So its hard for me to beleive God will give me anything more than patience or kindness. A little more faith would be a great thing….but, Im not holding my breath anymore:D Oh believe me I would love the opportunity to swallow my pride and say “God made my kids normal even though I thought he wouldnt”.....oh how I would love that opportunity. But, its not going to happen.

I think that God wants you to beleive that HE CAN do things even if he DOESN’t if you know what I mean. He doesnt want to have to prove himself I guess.

 

I didnt want to sound like I dont beleive God does things physically for people because I know he does. Ive read the Bible and heard plenty of stories. I just mean that I think for people like me trusting in that it will happen for you can truly damage our relationship with God. Because things generally dont workout. And if you dont have a strong faith having prayers go unanswered can totally destroy any chance of ever having any faith. You have to look at the situation logically as well as spiritually.

 

Oh Kristi!  Jesus loves you more than all the mothers and fathers in the world love their children!  I can understand how having a hard childhood makes it hard to trust that God, as your Father, wants to (and will) give you good things.  My husband had a horrific childhood, and still has a hard time trusting people, God, even me sometimes.  Sometimes it’s like he’s always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  But remember that GOD CHOSE YOU to be HIS, before the foundation of the world.  And St. Paul tells us that he loves us and chooses us even when we don’t necessarily deserve it.  He is not like some earthly parents who withhold love, who make their children earn affection, who punish arbitrarily.  God doesn’t play games with his love.  He loves you and will give you his gifts freely and generously; all YOU have to do is open your arms.  And his gifts are often the quiet kind, not flashy or obvious, so that’s why it’s important to stop and count our blessings…oftentimes it’s only then that we actually see that he’s been giving us gifts all along, we were just too busy or preoccupied or worried to see it.  I will pray, Kristi, that you will experience in greater and deeper ways God’s love for you and for your family.

 

Dear, dear Kristi,
Your very real grappling with your faith really touched me.  I deeply relate to your pain and understand that difficulty with faith and trusting in anyone, including God that comes along with years of pain and trauma experienced in a difficult childhood.  Bunny says it all so well and beautifully that I will not say anymore.  I understand how it feels to never feel that God came through at such a time of innocence and vulnerability and have it perhaps sting to hear of present-day gifts and rescues be immediately attributed to God and be a little bit skeptical.  Just know that this much is true: He is there and waiting on Him, especially in times like these when he seems absent, is the true-grit of faith.  It will not go unnoticed.  You will be in my thoughts and prayers.


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